VIU hosts summer camps for Indigenous students

Hayden Taylor, Sheldon Scow and Talela Manson are excited to welcome high school students back to VIU’s Nanaimo campus for the sixth year for the Thuy’she’num Tu Smun’eem: Building a Foundation for our Youth summer camps.
Vancouver Island University photo

June 29, 2022

Nanaimo, BC: A pair of free summer camps that aim to make the transition to university easier for Indigenous youth are returning to in-person delivery at Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Nanaimo campus this summer.

The Thuy’she’num Tu Smun’eem: Building a Foundation for our Youth summer camps take place July 18-22 (for Grades 7-9 students) and August 8-12 (for Grades 10-12 students) on campus, with students staying overnight at VIU Residences for five days.

“We are grateful that we were able to switch to an online and then a blended (online and in-person) format for the past two years, but now that restrictions have eased, we are very excited to bring the youth back to campus,” says Hayden Taylor, a camp coordinator and recent graduate of VIU’s Bachelor of Education program, who also helped organize the camps last year. “The idea is to slowly get students out of their comfort zones and get them making those connections outside of their communities.”

Daytime activities include campus tours, financial literacy workshops, public speaking workshops, cultural activities with VIU Elders-in-Residence, drum circles and even a boxing session. Camp coordinators and participants will practice nightly thuy thuts (check-ins) together to ensure everyone has a moment to practice gratitude and share their thoughts and feelings, and students will experience what it’s like to stay on campus in dorms. 

The magic of the camps is in the storytelling, says Talela Manson, another camp coordinator who just finished their first year of Exploratory Studies at VIU. Manson has also been a participant in the Thuy’she’num Tu Smun’eem camps.  

“I think the camps were an opportunity to meet mentors and inspired me to come to VIU, to go to post-secondary,” they say. “For a while, I didn’t know if it was something I wanted to do and how I was going to do that. I got to meet a lot of people who were in my place and could share their experiences. It made me feel less alone and like I had a place to go after high school.”

The camps have taken place at VIU since 2017 thanks to the generosity of The Peter Cundill Foundation, which has given VIU a grant to run the program for the past six years. Established in 2012, the Foundation honours the legacy of renowned Canadian investment fund manager and philanthropist Peter Cundill and has an emphasis on improving the lives of children and young people.

For more information and to apply, email

Quinn takes on critical leadership role at VIU

Dr. Michael Quinn, Provost and VP Academic

Vancouver Island University (VIU) has appointed Dr. Michael (Mike) Quinn Provost and Vice-President Academic. In this role, Quinn will guide and enhance the academic mission across VIU campuses and Research Centres and Institutes. His work will ensure the efforts of the divisions he oversees are directed toward achieving the key goals of the University’s academic goals, which are articulated in the new Academic Plan,Weaving Our Journey Together, while fostering a culture that is known for embracing innovation and promoting educational equity, and remains proudly student-focused.

Quinn brings valuable academic leadership experience to this role, most recently serving as Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President, Academic at Mount Royal University (MRU) in Calgary since 2019. Previously to this, Quinn held the role of Associate Vice-President, Research, Scholarship and Community Engagement (2015) and Founding Director and Talisman Energy Chair of Environmental Sustainability (2013), both at MRU.

Dr. Quinn’s academic leadership roles were preceded by 16 years spent as associate and full professor in the faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary (1997) with oversight on interdisciplinary research programs in parks and protected areas, landscape planning and management, ecological design, human dimensions of wildlife, and sustainability and resilience.

Quinn holds a PhD from York University (Environmental Studies), an MSc (Conservation Biology) and a BSc (Forest Science) both from the University of Alberta. He is passionately committed to reconciliation, decolonization and growing the space of Indigenous engagement. He is often published; has been the recipient of numerous grants, awards and fellowships; and is a multi-SSHRC and NSERC recipient.

Quinn has been active in his community as a board member for the Calgary Zoo Animal Welfare Committee (2014-2019); as board chair and member-at-large of the Miistakis Institute (2001-2016); and several other board roles including the Chinook Institute for Community Stewardship and the Calgary Foundation. When not working, Mike enjoys the outdoors, including hiking, boating, fly fishing and backcountry skiing.

Quinn assumed his new role on June 22, 2022.

Book explores the history and meaning behind petroglyphs

VIU Elder-in-Residence C-tasi:a - Geraldine Manson has authored a book about the history, stories and meaning behind the petroglyphs that exist throughout the Nanaimo area.

Photo: Vancouver Island University

Vancouver Island University Elder-in-Residence C-tasi:a - Geraldine Manson has authored a book that looks at the history, stories and meaning behind the petroglyphs that exist throughout the Nanaimo area.

The book, Snuneymuxw History Written in Places and Spaces: Ancestor’s Voices—An Echo in Time, was created to give people a “clear understanding of the history of our ancestors – our Elders’ Elders – and the work that they do, and to help share the background about the images,” says Manson, a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

“I wanted the focus to be on the importance of the images, because many people, even today, think these images are just scribbles and that’s it.”

It took a couple of years for Manson to research and write the book. The creation of the book runs parallel to a current project at the Gabriola Museum, where Manson and others are looking at reproducing the images on the museum grounds in an area that will be called “The Village of the Ancestors.”

Working with the Gabriola Museum on a project like this was a two-fold fit for Manson.

“I’ve been involved with Gabriola, either through archaeological field assistance, or the museum itself, or the petroglyphs – and petroglyphs have been my passion for many years,” she says.

The information in the book came from knowledge that Manson hold with her. In addition to telling the story of her ancestors and history of the Snuneymuxw peoples, the images are still in use today, Manson says.

For example, “some of these images are considered spiritual and continue to be used in sacred ceremonies," she explains.

A launch event is being held at the Gabriola Museum on Monday, June 20 at 3:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend, and admission is free. Further details on the event are available on the Gabriola Museum’s website.

University awards three honorary degrees at convocation

From left to right: ts’usqinuxun’, William Good, Barbara Paterson and Stephen Jarislowsky will receive honorary degrees from VIU on June 23 and 24.


A Hereditary Chief and Master Carver, an acclaimed sculpture artist, and a respected philanthropist and businessman will be recognized at VIU’s three convocation ceremonies this month.

 220615 – Vancouver Island University (VIU) will recognize three individuals for their significant contributions to society during the 2022 convocation ceremonies on June 23 and 24.

ts’usqinuxun’, William Good, a Master Carver and Hereditary Chief from the Snuneymuxw First Nation, will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters at VIU’s June 23 convocation ceremony. VIU is recognizing ts’usqinuxun’ forthe significant role he played in bringing the Snuneymuxw Coast Salish art form back from the brink of extinction, as well as sharing his knowledge with the community.  

Learn more about ts’usqinuxun’, William Good.

Internationally acclaimed Canadian sculpture artist Barbara Paterson will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters at the June 24 morning convocation ceremony. She is known primarily for her bronze figurative public sculptures, including her larger-than-life piece, “The Famous Five,” which is on permanent display in Ottawa. This piece was commissioned to honour the renowned Persons Case and the Alberta women who launched the legal challenge to gain recognition of Canadian women as “persons” eligible to sit in the Senate.

Learn more about Barbara Paterson

Philanthropist and businessman Stephen Jarislowsky will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters at VIU’s June 24 afternoon convocation ceremony. Jarislowsky directed the growth of one of the largest and most successful management firms in Canada, and he has dedicated countless hours through his foundation to giving back to community, including supporting more than 40 research chairs at post-secondary institutions. For his lifelong commitment to business ethics, good governance and excellence in learning, Jarislowsky is a Companion of the Order of Canada and has been inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.

Learn more about Stephen Jarislowsky.

 VIU awards honorary degrees to publicly acknowledge members of society who exhibit a record of outstanding distinction and achievement in an area related to the University’s mission, such as, but not limited to, scholarship, research, teaching, the creative arts, business and industry, international affairs or public service. To learn more and view a list of past honorary degree recipients, visit the VIU convocation homepage.

Vancouver Island University receives $2 million to educate future public service leaders

Dr. Deborah Saucier, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor, and Stephen Jarislowsky, President of the Jarislowsky Foundation, sign an agreement to establish the Chair in Trust and Political Leadership.
Vancouver Island University Photo

Vancouver Island University is one of five Canadian universities selected to form a unique network focused on educating future politicians and civil servants. 

The Jarislowsky Foundation has chosen Acadia University, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (in collaboration with l’École Nationale d’Administration Publique), Trent University, the University of Lethbridge and Vancouver Island University to set up a first-of-its-kind network at five liberal arts and science universities in five regions of Canada. As part of this initiative, the Foundation is investing $2 million to help establish the Jarislowsky Chair in Trust and Political Leadership at VIU.

“The Jarislowsky Foundation’s generous endowment is a significant contribution to the social sciences and to further establishing VIU’s position as a regional hub for expertise,” said Dr. Deborah Saucier, President and Vice-Chancellor of Vancouver Island University. “The Jarislowsky Chair in Trust and Political Leadership aligns with the goals set out in our Strategic Plan: to become a leader in learning for future generations and to expand life-enriching and career building experiences for our diverse population of learners. We are grateful to Stephen Jarislowsky and the Jarislowsky Foundation for selecting VIU for this investment in VIU and its learners.”

“At VIU, we aspire to provide high-quality programs to our students which, in the VIU context, means programming that is accessible to the university’s potential learners, centering their needs and preparing them for future endeavours,” said Dr. Carol Stuart, Provost and Vice-President Academic. “I am excited for the potential this Chair holds for our learners and the opportunities it will provide to enrich their studies and help them become transformative leaders who contribute to social inclusion and engaged citizenship throughout their lives.”

The vision for the network is to collaborate on the development of a common core curriculum, distinct regional curriculum components and establish regular interaction and engagement of students across Canada. The long-term goal is to professionalize ethical and fiduciary responsibility in political and public service by developing certification in trust and political leadership. The network will also provide the foundation for successful and impactful careers in politics and public service.

“A signature feature of the Political Studies program at VIU is the close collaboration with our Global Studies program,” said Dr. Elizabeth Brimacombe, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. “As a result, the Jarislowsky Chair in Trust and Political Leadership will examine ethics and governance in the areas of Canadian foreign policy at a time when the rules-based international order is being challenged. This will include an emphasis on how the Cascadia region can respond to these broader transformations occurring in global governance. We are honoured to work in collaboration with the Jarislowsky Foundation and our university partners across the country on this exciting initiative.”

Stephen Jarislowsky, President of the Jarislowsky Foundation, was born in Germany in 1925 and lived in the Netherlands and France between the two world wars. He witnessed situations like those in Ukraine today. He said the creation of these new chairs responds to a need in our democratic societies.

“People need to understand historical experiences in order to prevent repeating them. And one of the ways to do that is to ensure our governments are led by inspiring, highly trusted, reliable men and women who exercise fiduciary responsibility,” said Jarislowsky. “Once democracy disappears in a country, it takes years to re-establish if it is even possible. Optimistically, it’s a question of how we are going to strengthen and build trust in our public institutions, our organizations and ourselves.”

Anyone interested in supporting this important initiative can email the VIU Foundation at or call 250.740.6217. The Jarislowsky Foundation’s full news release can be found here.

VIU will begin recruitment of the new Chair immediately.

About the Jarislowsky Foundation

The Jarislowsky Foundation was founded in 1993 by Stephen Jarislowsky, a prominent Canadian philanthropist and business leader. The Foundation’s mission is to promote, support and foster excellence and ethics in education, medicine and the arts, and the environment and climate change. The Foundation has 42 research chairs in areas of democracy, governance, public sector management, environment & climate change, Canadian art, and health across Canada.

The Foundation supports programs that allow students from diverse backgrounds to discuss contemporary issues with mentors and recognized experts. These programs aim to develop students’ critical thinking skills so that they become leaders with strategic vision and thinking.

The Jarislowsky Foundation supports more than 80 organizations a year in the arts and culture, hospital foundations, the community sector and climate change. The Jarislowsky Foundation now donates approximately $8 million per year.


About Vancouver Island University

Vancouver Island University (VIU), located on the west coast of Canada, is one of Canada’s most inclusive universities. We place students and communities at the centre of our work, recognizing that education is a key determinant of social progress and economic prosperity. Our unique student experience includes small class sizes; dedicated, award-winning faculty; and exceptional undergraduate research opportunities that are often realized in collaboration with our many community partners. We also offer a wide variety of educational options and starting points, including upgrading, trades, and undergraduate and graduate programs, to support the varied educational needs of both our domestic and international students. This personalized approach prepares VIU students for success in the workforce and gives them the skills to act as responsible global citizens. At the foundation of this work is our focus on ensuring as many people as possible can access post-secondary education.


VIU hosts conference on the environment and young people’s literature and culture

Terri Doughty, a VIU English Professor, is the lead organizer for the Assembling Common Worlds conference being held at VIU’s Nanaimo campus this June.
Vancouver Island University photo

Vancouver Island University will be host to a conference from June 10 to 12 that will help broaden the understanding of environmental knowledge and issues in young people’s literature and culture.

The conference – Assembling Common Worlds – will explore concepts of eco-literacy and eco-activism in children’s and youth literature and culture. Eco-literacy is about understanding ecology and how the environment functions, including the human place within it, and eco-activism is about trying to raise awareness and stop activities that are damaging the environment.

“These are two areas that are emerging in children’s and youth literature, and you’ll see there are more books at all age levels about kids who are getting out there and trying to make a difference,” says Terri Doughty, a VIU English Professor and conference organizer. “Whereas earlier environmental children’s literature was more about creating the literacy with a little bit of activism, so you would get children’s books that promoted recycling and that sort of thing, now we’re seeing more books and movies that radically challenge how Western culture has traditionally viewed the relationship between humans and nature.”

The interdisciplinary conference will bring together scholars and practitioners from environmental education, literary studies, childhood studies and early childhood education to identify opportunities for cooperation and collaboration to tackle the challenges of generating intergenerational dialogue on current environmental concerns.

“Assembling Common Worlds is really about decentering the human and looking at how humans can recalibrate our place on this planet that we share with other species,” says Doughty.

Assembling Common Worlds is being hosted at VIU’s Nanaimo campus from June 10 to 12 and is open to everyone to attend. People can attend either in person or virtually. Each day features a keynote speaker. The keynote speeches are free and anyone can attend them in person at the Malaspina Theatre or watch them via livestream. Register for the keynotes on Eventbrite.

On June 10, from 4:30 to 6 pm, Dr. Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak from the University of Wroclaw in Poland, presents Finding Hope? Researching Children’s Literature and Culture in 2022. Deszcz-Tryhubczak says hope for a better future is the “bloodstream of children’s literature and culture scholarship.” Her discussion explores the possibility of hope in the face of current news about human-caused environmental degradation, including such events as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On June 11, from 3:30 to 5 pm, Dr. Affrica Taylor from the University of Canberra presents Roos and Rabbits: Responding to Extinctions on Settler Colonized Land. Taylor’s discussion will examine the representations of animals in Australian literature and how settler culture has adopted these animals as being emblematic of Australian society but their understanding and relationship with these animals is very different from how Australia’s Aboriginal Peoples have traditionally understood these animals. 

On June 12, from 3:30 to 5 pm, Dr. Amanda Wager, VIU’s Canada Research Chair in Community-Engaged Research, presents Land as Literacy: Young People Practicing Culturally Sustaining Land-Based Virtual Pedagogies. Wager’s discussion seeks to advance understanding of how “young people and local Knowledge Keepers engage in their natural and local environments as a way to imagine and create cultural and global sustainability, specifically during a global pandemic.” 

During the conference, a special exhibition will run at the View Gallery, located in Building 300, at the Nanaimo campus, from Friday, June, 10 to Sunday June 12. Friday gallery hours are from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday and Sunday gallery hours are 10:30 am to 1:30 pm. The exhibition features posters on environmental themes created by Grade 7 students at Cinnabar Valley Elementary School, as well as work by high school and university students.

Registration is open to everyone and people can purchase their tickets on EventBrite. It is $175 for general admission, $125 for graduate and post-graduate students, or $50 to attend a single day out of the three. For more information, please visit the Assembling Common Worlds Conference website.

The Assembling Common Worlds conference is supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Connections Grant and a VIU Research Awards Committee Gather Grant.


VIU hosts a conversation on the future of reconciliation

Dr. Deborah Saucier,
VIU President and

April 14, 2022

The Future of Reconciliation in Canada: A VIU Conversation
 Wednesday, April 20, 2022, 10-11:30 am
Online (Zoom webinar)

Reconciliation is a complex concept with a variety of definitions, meaning different things to different people, but one thing many agree upon is that for reconciliation to become a reality, significant structural and societal changes are needed. 

Reconciliation and collaboration with Indigenous communities are woven into the fabric of Vancouver Island University’s five-year Strategic Plan, People, Place, Potential. As part of the University’s key commitment to do more to honour Indigenous students, employees and communities, and deepen our understanding of Indigenous knowledges, this virtual dialogue will bring together partners in the philanthropic, private, public and academic sectors.

Join us on Wednesday, April 20 from 10 – 11:30 am Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) for a conversation on moving forward in a good way with the following presenters: 

  • Dr. Deborah Saucier, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor
  • Michael Calvert, Interim Chair of VIU’s Indigenous Commitments Committee (moderator)
  • Bruce Lawson, Executive Director of the Counselling Foundation
  • of Canada
  • Wanda Brascoupe Kennedy, Founder of the Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund
  • Victoria Grant, Founder of the Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund
  • Udlu Hanson, VP of Community and Strategic Development with Baffinland Iron Mines
  • Gina Wilson, Deputy Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Youth
  • Canada
  • Daniel Quan-Watson, Deputy Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
  • Jessica Wood, Associate Deputy Minister, Declaration Act Secretariat, Government of BC

Short presentations from panelists will be followed by a Q&A period. Register here:

$3.7 million for Indigenous gathering place at VIU

Shq'apthut (A Gathering Place)
VIU photo

Indigenous students at Vancouver Island University will soon have access to more space as Shq'apthut (A Gathering Place) is expanded at the Nanaimo campus.

The building is a home away from home for Indigenous students where cultural, academic, recreational and social activities are promoted and celebrated.

"Providing cultural spaces on campus is important to Indigenous students and has value to the entire university community. VIU is seeing an increase in Indigenous student enrolment, and we are excited to invest in the facilities that will help support their educational experience," said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. "By expanding Shq'apthut, we can help encourage and welcome Indigenous students to pursue post-secondary education."

The expanded Shq'apthut building will add more ceremonial space, Elder-in-residence offices and additional washroom facilities, all within a fully accessible building. The new space will be heated and cooled by VIU's District Geo-Exchange Energy System, which harnesses the geo-energy stored in sunken mine shafts under the campus. The surrounding site will undergo extensive landscaping that will exemplify and celebrate Indigenous culture.

"VIU is proud of its long-standing commitment to reconciliation and our collaborations with the Nations. The expansion of Shq'apthut is a tangible demonstration of our strategic commitment to build stronger partnerships with Indigenous communities in the regions we serve," said Deborah Saucier, president, VIU. "Working with the provincial government on this project will enhance the on-campus learning experience for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students at VIU and allow the Elders the space they need to do their work."

With $3.7 million in new funding between VIU and the Province to expand Shq'apthut, construction is expected to begin in spring 2023, with completion slated for spring 2024.

"Expanding Shq'apthut will allow us to host more cultural events because of increased capacity, and it will include dedicated office space for our Elders in residence to engage one-on-one with students in a culturally appropriate environment," Sylvia Scow, interim director, Office of Indigenous Education and Engagement, VIU. "Having this space to build relationships and share traditional knowledge is key in our work to implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

James Beardy, bachelor of natural resource management student, VIU - 
"For me, Shq'apthut has been a place where I feel like I belong, a place with familiar faces. It's been key to my academic success because I cannot achieve my full potential unless I'm comfortable where I am, and that space has helped me get comfortable. Attending events at Shq'apthut helped me learn about Coast Salish culture and the protocols here, which are vastly different from where I'm from - Fox Lake Cree Nation in northern Manitoba."

Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation -
"Starting post-secondary education is such an important milestone in someone's life. It represents a moment of change, and it requires supports. Shq'apthut is an important place on campus, and this further investment in ensuring it meets the needs of Indigenous students now and in the future is an important step in reconciliation."

Sheila Malcolmson, MLA for Nanaimo - 
"We all benefit from Vancouver Island University's leadership, learning about each other's cultures and traditions. The second phase of Shq'apthut honours local First Nations, supports students on campus, and celebrates culture in a space designed to inspire."

Quick Facts:
* The Province has provided $3.3 million toward the $3.7 million project. VIU has provided $417,300.

* VIU's Nanaimo campus is located on the territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

* Indigenous student numbers on the Nanaimo campus grew 11% between 2018-19 and 2020-21, to a total of 1,384 students.

* Indigenous students make up 12% of the total student population of 11,963 people.

* More than 24,580 students at public post-secondary institutions identified themselves as Indigenous in 2019-20.

Learn more about Vancouver Island University

Citizen scientists can look for plants and animals in BioBlitz

Mandy Hobkirk, Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Coordinator uses the iNaturalist app to examine flowers at Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo campus. Photo Credit: Vancouver Island University

People can channel their inner scientist by participating in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region’s annual BioBlitz.

The MABR BioBlitz, which runs from April 8-10, relies on citizen scientists to collect information on flora and fauna species in the biosphere region.

“We couldn’t do this work without the help of citizen scientists and volunteers,” says Mandy Hobkirk, MABR Co-ordinator, adding that with community participation, more information can be gathered compared to sending out one research team.

This year people are asked to use the iNaturalist app and make their observations under the 2022 MABR BioBlitz project. Observations must be made within the boundaries of the biosphere, which is defined by five watersheds: Englishman River, Little Qualicum River, French Creek, Nanoose Creek and Bonnell Creek. An interactive map with the biosphere’s boundaries is available on the MABR website.

People can download iNaturalist from Google Play or Apple’s App Store. Participants who are unfamiliar with the iNaturalist app can learn how to use it by watching MABR’s tutorial video.

There is a prize at the end of each day for the person who submits the highest number of observations. Prizes include identification books on birds, flora and fauna or edible and medicinal flora of the West Coast.

Citizen scientists collecting information every year gives a snapshot of the biodiversity of an area and helps researchers see if there are changes over time, which includes keeping an eye on species at risk or invasive species to see if they are spreading. This data contributes to baseline information, which researchers can use to identify trends and see a bigger picture over the long term.

Hobkirk says the BioBlitz is a great way for people to connect with the environment, either by making observations in their backyard or exploring an area in the region they haven’t visited before. Hobkirk says by making observations people are contributing to baseline information, which is “really important as we move forward, especially in the context of climate change.”

Students aim for connection at Youth Leadership Conference

Dozens of emerging leaders will gather for two days of keynote talks, career advice and fun activities during the Vancouver Island Leadership Conference April 1-2.

An annual event organized by Vancouver Island University (VIU) students, this year’s conference theme is Leading the Future Together – a theme that conference Chairperson Victoria Ross says reflects on the benefits of returning to an in-person conference after two years of virtual events. 

“The conference is about bringing connections back for post-secondary students,” she says. “The physical and social connection aspects of life in a virtual environment were extremely challenging for many people. We are looking forward to making new memories, new friendships and engaging students in meaningful dialogue with our speakers. My overall hope is that delegates leave the two-day event feeling inspired and passionate about one new thing.” 

The conference includes 11 different speakers from diverse backgrounds, including Olympic athlete Lanni Marchant, author and TEDx speaker Nelson Soh, and Paul Underhill, founder of Rumble Supershake. It also includes a career expo and numerous activities students can get involved in, including yoga, meditation, journaling, foraging, dragon boating and a visit to Saysutshun (Newcastle Island) for a guided cultural tour and a traditional cedar workshop. 

During the career expo, students will receive a networking box that includes business cards, job/volunteer opportunities and pamphlets from participating businesses and organizations. Attendees will also have the chance to win tuition credits by entering their reflections on what they’ve learned, seen and done into an online workbook, and if they are VIU students, they will be able to receive credits towards their Co-Curricular Record  – a non-academic transcript the recognizes paid and volunteer experiences and employability skills. This non-academic transcript can be forwarded to employers or other institutions. Non-VIU students will receive a certificate of completion. 

“Students of all ages are welcome to attend as well as staff or faculty,” says Ross. “We are proud to showcase what the Nanaimo community has to offer and it’s not too late for local businesses to participate. Students who attend the conference can expect to network with other students and speakers, enter to win tuition credits at an institution of their choosing, immerse themselves in out-of-the-ordinary experiences, gain co-curricular credits and develop their leadership skills.”

The conference is supported by VIU’s Office of Co-Curricular Engagement & Learning. To learn more and view the event schedule, visit the Vancouver Island Leadership Conference homepage.

New bursary fund boosts impact of education savings grants

Vancouver Island University (VIU) and Wealthsimple Foundation are teaming up on a new bursary program that aims to make post-secondary education more accessible for modest-income students. 

Having as little as $500 set aside for post-secondary education can sometimes make all the difference between attending a university program or dismissing it as out of reach. 

To help families save up for higher education, the Government of Canada introduced the Canada Learning Bond (CLB) program, which provides an initial payment of $500 in a Registered Education Savings Plan and $100 for each subsequent year of eligibility, to a maximum of $2,000. The program is available for modest-income families with children born after 2003.

To amplify the impact of Canada Learning Bond grants, Wealthsimple Foundation is partnering with VIU to create a set of bursaries for CLB-eligible students. This partnership is an important demonstration of VIU’s commitment to welcoming a larger and more diverse population of learners. These $20,000 bursaries ($5,000 per year for four years) will be prioritized to support students who have claimed the CLB and have financial need. 

“We are working to break down barriers to post-secondary education in Canada,” says Leen Li, CEO, Wealthsimple Foundation. “Enhancing access to CLB benefits will expand future opportunities and ambitions. This partnership with VIU will help us make the first step to prosperity possible for deserving, CLB-eligible students.” 

VIU has been actively promoting the CLB and other education savings grants since 2013, and a key goal for the Financial Aid & Awards department is to support students in need so that they can focus more on their studies and less on their financial security. 

“Our challenge to financial institutions is to partner with post-secondaries to increase financial access, specifically for CLB beneficiaries,” says Irlanda Gonzalez Price, Associate Vice-President of Student Affairs. “Our friends at WealthSimple Foundation are the first to accept the challenge and we are so grateful to partner with them to make a meaningful difference in the lives of two deserving students.”

The Wealthsimple Foundation bursaries are $5,000 per year for up to four years. To apply, students fill out their Scholarship, Award and Bursary profile located in their VIU student record by March 31, 2022, and show that they have received a CLB grant. Students do not need to have been accepted by VIU to apply, they only need a student number, which they receive when they apply to VIU. Recipients will receive funds by the fall tuition deadline date, upon verification of full enrolment.

High school students invited to VIU Discovery Day

March 16, 2022

It’s Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) largest event for high school students, and this year it’s taking place virtually, so students and parents can log in from anywhere. 

Discovery Day 2022 takes place on Tuesday, March 29, 2022, from 9 am to 2 pm on a virtual event platform called Pheedloop. The event will be hosted by current students with support from university staff in key areas such as financial aid, student housing, the VIU Students’ Union and much more. Another highlight is a feature that allows students to collect points for every session they attend and activity they engage in, and then trade them for prizes and swag at the end of the day, just like in a video game. 

“Discovery Day is really focused on the student experience,” says Rolanda Murray, a VIU Recruitment Officer. “It will be student-led, with lots of opportunities for them to explore our programs and services, check out live virtual tours, chat with our students and earn prizes. Come find out what makes VIU a unique place to study from our students.” 

New this year is a parent session from 5 - 7 pm where parents can ask questions and hear more about key supports like financial aid and student services.

Discovery Day is open to all students in Grades 10, 11 and 12. To learn more, view the schedule and register, visit the Discovery Day homepage.



Christmas magic returns to Milner Gardens and Woodland

Milner Christmas Magic features more than half a kilometre of lighted pathways at the seaside garden.
Vancouver Island University photo

Outdoor festival of lights runs Fridays to Sundays during the first three weeks of December.

The garden paths and buildings at Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Milner Gardens & Woodland will twinkle and glow with thousands of lights during Milner Christmas Magic this holiday season.

After cancelling last year’s event due to COVID restrictions, the annual outdoor festival of lights is back.

“I’m thrilled we are able to welcome our community back again for a chance to walk through the Christmas lights and to help everyone get in a festive spirit,” says Geoff Ball, Executive Director of Milner Gardens & Woodland.

Attendees can stroll through more than half a kilometre of lighted paths, shop for Christmas gifts at the Gingerbread Gift shop, enjoy hot beverages and food at the outdoor refreshment stand and stop for a photo-op at Santa’s Sleigh. People posting their photos on social media are encouraged to use the hashtag, #MilnerChristmasMagic. Visitors can also drop off their letters to Santa in the North Pole mailbox onsite. Milner’s house and cottage will be closed, but a series of lights and festive holiday displays will be visible through the windows. Masks are required for entry to the Gingerbread Gift Shop.

Milner Christmas Magic runs Fridays to Sundays during the first three weeks of December – Dec. 3-5, 10-12 and 17-19 – from 5-8 pm, with viewing up until 8:30 pm. Admittance is by a suggested donation of $5 for adults, $2.50 for children and $12 for a family (two adults and up to three children under 19 years). A shuttle cart service for people with accessibility and mobility needs is available between the Welcome & Interpretive Centre, Gingerbread House Gift Shop, Gardener’s Cottage and Milner House.

Milner Christmas Magic is a fundraiser for Milner Gardens & Woodland, a seaside garden in Qualicum Beach, located at 2179 Island Highway West. For more information about the event please visit the Milner Christmas Magic Tips and Suggestions website.

If required, any weather closures will be posted online on the Milner Gardens’ special events website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. Milner Christmas Magic’s 2021 presenting sponsor is Windsor Plywood.




University adopts five-year strategic plan

Vancouver Island University has a new Strategic Plan, People, Place, Potential, to guide its activities over the next five years.

Throughout 2020, VIU reached out to students, alumni, employees and the wider community to hear their views on the University’s strengths and their vision for its future. The strategic planning process has led to a new Strategic Plan for 2021-26, which will help VIU build an even more powerful experience for students. 

The new Strategic Plan grew out of the consultation with more than 2,000 people, who shared their thoughts about what makes VIU unique. As a result, VIU commits to continuing its personal connection with learners and affirms its relationship to this place and its cultural, social, economic and environmental roots. The new Strategic Plan reaffirms VIU’s commitment to access, to ensure the realization of the potential of all learners.  

“The Strategic Plan will help us chart the course to become the University we want to be. The Strategic Plan will guide our decision making, ensuring strong stewardship of our resources,” explains Dr. Deborah Saucier, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor. “Building on our strengths, VIU envisions a unique educational experience that is more accessible, more inclusive and more deeply rooted in community.”

The plan includes three core values – People, Place and Potential – and six commitments for the next five years:

  •  Welcome a larger and more diverse population of learners;
  • Become a more inclusive and healthier place for work and study;
  • Grow to be the region’s hub for research and expertise;
  • Build stronger partnerships with Indigenous communities;
  • Become a leader in learning for new generations; and
  • Expand life-enriching and career-building experiences 

The Strategic Plan is the result of the commitment and creativity of VIU’s on-campus and off-campus communities. The consultation process launched in March 2020, just two weeks before the move online, and included in-person meetings, email, surveys, Zoom videoconferencing and an online engagement platform. 

“The plan wouldn’t have been possible without that participation,” says Saucier. “The ideas and stories from our communities allowed us to focus on what matters most to VIU. The result is a strategic direction that will guide us into the future.”

To learn more, and view the draft plan, visit or watch the video.

VIU video project acknowledges Nanaimo soldiers’ contributions to the First and Second World Wars

Nanaimo Remembers is a video memorial project spearheaded by Vancouver Island University in collaboration with Nanaimo Community Archives. Check it out at various locations across Nanaimo and on VIU’s YouTube channel.Vancouver Island University photo

November 1, 2021 – A video memorial project that aims to tell a piece of the story of the lives of the Nanaimo soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First and Second World Wars will be displayed across the city November 1 -11, 2021. 

For the 11 days leading up to Remembrance Day, the Nanaimo Remembers project will display the names of more than 200 soldiers in prominent locations across the city. The names have been obtained from the Dallas Square Cenotaph in downtown Nanaimo and a special section highlights the contributions of local Indigenous soldiers, thanks to research conducted by Vancouver Island University (VIU) Elder-in-Residence Geraldine Manson.

The project, which launched in 2018, was spearheaded by VIU’s Communications and External Affairs and Brand and Marketing teams in collaboration with the University’s Canadian Letters and Images Project (CLIP) and Nanaimo Community Archives. Nanaimo Remembers grew out of a desire to localize a project VIU participated in for many years – The World Remembers, a display tribute to soldiers across the world who lost their lives in the Great War.

“The names in this project are all connected to Nanaimo in some manner, and deserve to be remembered by the community,” says Dr. Stephen Davies, Director of the Canadian Letters and Images Project. “Working with community partners and organizations, VIU is able to ensure that these individuals become more than merely names on the cenotaph.”

Information shared about each soldier, where available, includes their name, rank and battalion, when they died and at what age, where they were buried, their occupation, and their connection to Nanaimo.

The video presentation will run continuously from November 1 – 11, 2020, on the large screen in the Welcome Centre (Building 300 at VIU’s Nanaimo campus). It will also be played on screens at several locations in the community on varying dates: 

  • Through the Nanaimo-Ladysmith Public Schools’ website, social media accounts and at participating schools;
  • At the Harbourfront and Nanaimo North locations of the Vancouver Island Regional Library;
  • At the Nanaimo Museum; and
  • At the Port Theatre.

Check out the project at one of the participating locations above or visit VIU’s YouTube channel

VIU invites public to experience university life

Experience VIU 2021 

 Saturday, October 2, 2021, 9 am to 2 pm

Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) virtual open house event happens this Saturday (October 2) and includes a $1,000 tuition prize giveaway, video tour of Deep Bay Marine Field Station, a chance to talk with program chairs and downloadable resources. 

Experience VIU is for anyone interested in learning more about post-secondary and how VIU can help them achieve their career goals. This includes those still in high school as well as those who have been out of school for a while and are now looking to further their education. This free online event allows people to participate from wherever they are in the world, while the live chats allow participants to get their specific questions answered.

This informative and fun drop-in event includes opportunities to chat one-on-one with recruiters, who can answer your questions about programs, student resources and how to pay for school; videos (including a virtual tour of our Deep Bay Marine Field Station that features all the critters that call it home); and downloadable resources. Participants can enter to win a range of prizes and VIU swag, including a $1,000 tuition credit prize for domestic students. Other highlights include:

  • Q&A events hosted by our Engineering, Science and Technology and Education programs;
  • A live parent session for those who want to learn how to better support their learners; and
  • Mini lectures, including by our Geography, Anthropology and Master of Community Planning programs:
    • The Climate Emergency: What you should know, and why.
    • The Anthropological Adventure.
    • Who Plans the City? All about Community Planning at VIU.

 International students will be able to learn more about what it’s like to live on Vancouver Island, accommodation options, immigration, admission requirements and more.  

Check out this video to learn more, or visit the Experience VIU registration page to sign up.

VIU hosts virtual event to showcase graduate programs

Vancouver Island University offers a first online Graduate Programs Expo on Sept. 15. for students contemplating the next step in their post-secondary careers.  

Graduate programs build on what students learned in undergraduate degrees and are more highly specialized in a particular area of study. VIU has a range of graduate options to choose from, from master’s degrees, to advanced diplomas, to certificates, to enhance the education students have already received and help propel them into the next step in their careers.

At the expo, attendees will be able to:

  • Meet instructors and ask questions about the graduate programs they are interested in;
  • Learn about support services such as scholarships, internships and research opportunities;
  • Get a real sense of what grad school is like and how it’s different from undergraduate programs;
  • Receive advice on what to consider if you are thinking about graduate school;
  • Go through an overview of the graduate school application process.

The event is hosted through an online event platform called PheedLoop that allows participants to scan the different program booths and visit with faculty to learn more about programs, much like walking into an in-person conference room. Participants will be automatically entered into a contest to win a $1,000 tuition credit towards their fall 2022 semester tuition.

To learn more or register, visit the Eventbrite registration link.

Vancouver Island University ready to rock

Students connect with peer mentors, staff and faculty to get to know VIU at RockVIU. / Vancouver Island University photo

ROCK VIU – New student orientation is under way until Sept. 3 and includes a mix of virtual and in-person events and activities.

After a year and a half of online learning for many, Vancouver Island University (VIU) is gearing up to welcome more students back to campus this fall.

With two cohorts of students who have never set foot on VIU campuses before – both first-year and many second-year students – the RockVIU: New Student Orientation committee has been hard at work organizing two weeks of welcome back events to get students connected to services, supports, their professors and each other. 

“This year our focus is on easing the transition back to in-person classes after a year of learning online,” says student Maria Clemotte, RockVIU Co-Event Lead. “We are starting off the first week with a chance for new and second-year students to make connections with third- and fourth-year students, who can answer any questions they have about what it’s like to be a VIU student, as well as chances to meet staff and learn more about what supports are available to them.”

The events, organized by the Office of Co-Curricular Engagement and Learning, began on August 23, when students have the chance to connect with peer mentors and have their questions answered in online Beach Fire Chat sessions. There will also be small-group excursions on the Nanaimo campus that include chances to interact with services all over the campus and participate in activities together.

Week two is an action-packed week filled with events to help students meet other students, their faculty and get familiar with student services. In-person events include VIU’s Got Talent, an outdoor movie and pizza night, and a Connect Fair Festival and barbecue. Students are also organizing an interactive art exhibition, during which peers can view visual art and dance performances that reflect what the past year of online learning has been like and contribute their hopes and dreams to the first-ever RockVIU Time Capsule.

Online sessions include the opening ceremony, question and answer panels, student experience talks, virtual campus adventure and even a session for parents who want to know a bit more about VIU and how to better support their learner.

The online events will be recorded and accessible for students to watch on their own schedules through the VIU Co-Curricular Involvement App, which can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play store or accessed on a desktop via

“This past year has been a transitional year for many students and RockVIU 2021 is designed to welcome students back in a meaningful and respectful way,” says Omar Karim, Coordinator and Manager of the Office of Co-curricular Engagement and Learning. “This is your chance to build relationships with your campus community, make new friends and start feeling a bit more comfortable with returning to campus and how to access services to navigate university life.”

The presenting partner for RockVIU 2021 is Panago Pizza. For more information, visit the Rock VIU website.

Photo Caption: Students connect with peer mentors, staff and faculty to get to know VIU at RockVIU. Photo Credit: Vancouver Island University

VIU researcher investigates hospital design elements

Dr. Lindsay McCunn
VIU Photo

A VIU researcher is surveying Island Health employees working in Cowichan District Hospital to understand what physical architectural features make a difference in their work satisfaction and well-being.

0520 - Vancouver Island University (VIU) Psychology Professor Dr. Lindsay McCunn is working with Island Health on a research project that could help the hospital replacement planning team consider which design features to incorporate into the new Cowichan District Hospital, which is expected to open in 2026. 

The research project is a long-term commitment that invited employees working at the current hospital to participate in a survey to determine which architectural elements and design features they associate with aspects of employee satisfaction, well-being, productivity and more. After the new hospital is built, employees will be surveyed again to measure the effect of included architectural features.

“Providing safe, high quality care for patients is our top priority,” says Deanna Fourt, Director of Sustainability and Business Continuity for Island Health. “Creating a positive working environment is one of the many ways we can support staff to maintain their safety and well-being at work, and improve the hospital experience for all. We are pleased to be partnering with Lindsay, and look forward to the opportunity to incorporate her leading-edge research into this exciting capital project.”

This research capitalizes on the rare opportunity of being able to ask employees questions prior to construction. McCunn, who specializes in environmental psychology – a relatively new sub-field of psychology that examines the transactions between individuals and their physical settings, says it’s unique to have a study underway this far in advance to get a picture of what design elements resonate with users.

McCunn, along with three undergraduate research assistants in her Environmental Psychology Research Lab, have recently surveyed employees at the existing Cowichan District Hospital to determine current levels of the staff’s feeling of commitment to the organization, perceived productivity, well-being, and their pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours within their workplace. Staff were also asked to describe what physical features in the hospital contribute to their sense of engagement and reduced stress on the job.

“Often, research that connects an environment to behaviours is done retroactively and building users are asked how they feel about working in a setting after it has been designed. But that kind of research relies on peoples’ memories, which can include errors and biases. The study with Island Health has a better methodology that allows us to measure how staff feel in both buildings, with less reliance on memory, because we are surveying them before and after they move into the new hospital,” says McCunn.

The survey asks employees questions about what physical features make a difference in their work satisfaction and also examines how people perceive environmental features that offer a sense of privacy, social interaction, social cohesion, safety and security, air quality, lighting, and so on. Findings from the survey will be shared with Island Health project team to enhance the team’s understanding of what features are important to staff for environmental sustainability.

“We understand a lot about how we interact with each other socially in psychology but sometimes it’s more difficult to understand what attributes of a physical environment contribute to those relationships and the feeling you have in a place,” says McCunn, adding that design features can also influence people’s behaviour at work and their attitudes toward the environment.

Fourt says there are numerous environmental elements taken into account when designing a new hospital, including targeting LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification. Many elements of the LEED® Gold Certification aim to improve the well-being and experience for the people inside the building. Some of the features that directly affect staff are storage and collection of recyclables, indoor air quality, places of respite and access to daylight.

Another element that might also be important is just having a pleasant place to take a break outside. Outside the scope of McCunn’s research project, Island Health will undertake a process to ensure patients and family caregivers have the opportunity to provide input into many important aspects of the new hospital.

“We want to make sure employees have a number of spaces that they can access to find some respite, privacy and a place to feel restored,” says McCunn. “That happens with things like biophilic design – where natural patterns and organic shapes and nature-based attributes – come in.”

Natural design elements can have restorative effects on people’s attention and mood, she adds. McCunn received VIU’s Explore Grant and Innovate Grant to undertake this work.


Portal Magazine marks 30 years of literary excellence

For 30 years Portal, Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) nationally distributed literary magazine, has amplified the voices of emerging writers and showcased the works of up-and-coming illustrators, photographers and artists.

Portal is hosting a Zoom virtual launch on Friday, April 30, 7-9 pm, to celebrate its 30th anniversary, expanded, 108-page full-colour edition, featuring contributor readings, a slideshow, recognition of faculty and awards.

This year’s issue pays homage to the past while also charting a new course for a more diverse and inclusive future. The magazine has a renewed mandate and website, which features an inclusivity statement and a commitment to have an annual Portfolio Spotlight section showcasing underrepresented voices.

“There was a concerted effort to address the cultural moment we’re in, with respect to the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-racist initiatives. There was an emphasis on trying to put our money where our mouth is and not just pay lip service to these ideas, but put them into practice,” says Joy Gugeler, a VIU Creative Writing and Journalism Professor and the magazine’s Publisher. “We are trying to reach out to every population on campus to welcome them into the pages of Portal, not just as contributors, but as members of the class and masthead.”

The 30th anniversary edition is the largest yet, with four special-edition features, including profiles on three Portal alumnae Jessica Key, Sarah Corsie and Meagan Dyer; an in-depth interview with VIU’s 2020-21 Gustafson Distinguished Poet Lillian Allen; and a discussion with staff from literary magazines Fiddlehead, Prism and The New Quarterly about how literary magazines function as the frontline workers of the publishing industry.

In the fourth special feature, a Portfolio Spotlight, “Raising the Spirits: Speaking To and For the Dead Across Cultures,” three contributors – Danielle Minnis, Gabriel Villasmil and Kesu Beaton – share pieces about cultural traditions in the Bahamas, Venezuela, and Tla'amin and Lil’wat Nations.

Portal Co-Managing Editor Kiara Strijack is proud of the range of pieces included in this edition.

“It’s really rewarding to see how all the fantastic poetry, scripts, fiction, non-fiction, and special features have developed through the editing process,” says Strijack. “I’m very excited about this issue.”

Strijack said the team faced unique challenges assembling this year’s edition because of the pandemic, putting the magazine together through Zoom and emails.

“There were a lot of email check-ins just to keep things organized and make sure people were managing in the online environment under time and personal pressures, mental health checks to make sure it was a supportive and healthy space,” says Strijack.

Gugeler says the students showed remarkable tenacity and determination this year.

“It was really a testament to how human we can be with each other despite a screen between us,” she says. “The teamwork was more concerted than in previous years. Perhaps they overcompensated because they were in little black boxes on Zoom and didn’t see each other face-to-face every week, but I felt a sense of loyalty to each other and to the magazine, a real congeniality and professionalism, that I hadn’t seen in previous classes to the same extent.”

To learn more visit Portal magazine’s websiteFacebook pageInstagram or Twitter accounts.

VIU and city sign agreement to collaborate

0419 - Nanaimo City Council and Vancouver Island University (VIU), announced the signing of a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") between the City of Nanaimo and VIU.  

Under the terms of the MOU, the City and VIU, will work together to:

* Establish a framework for collaboration between the two organizations;
* Adopt a cooperative approach to working together for the mutual benefit of the City and VIU, the students and broader community;
* Pursue areas of common strategic interest; 
* Actively participate in joint initiatives, projects and activities; and, 
* Identify and address common areas of concern that may emerge during the life of the MOU. 

An Executive Committee will also be established consisting of the senior leadership team from both the City and VIU. The MOU is effective as of Monday, April 19, 2021 until December 31, 2023. 


"Nanaimo is fortunate to have a university that offers programs ranging from graduate and undergraduate degrees to vocational and trades diplomas and certificates, as well as continuing education programs in health, education, sciences, arts, business, trades, leadership, leisure, community planning, education and so much more. Tapping into this wealth of knowledge and innovation can benefit the community and position the City for a brighter future." 

**Leonard Krog, Mayor, City of Nanaimo** 

"I’m excited to expand on the already strong relationship VIU has with the City of Nanaimo to share ideas and collaborate on projects to aid in our economic and social recovery. We are a university built by and for the community, and partnerships like this one are woven into the fabric of everything we do. I look forward to broadening the number of initiatives we collaborate on to address the social, economic and environmental challenges of our region."

**Dr. Deborah Saucier, President and Vice-Chancellor, VIU**

VIU students find creative ways to support children and families during Covid pandemic

Fourth-year VIU CYC student Alexis Comeau

Over the years, students in Vancouver Island University’s Child and Youth Care (CYC) program have built strong connections with community agencies that help children, youth and families who are dealing with challenges or obstacles to healthy living.

“Field experience is an integral part of the program, but COVID-19 put a halt to in-person practicum opportunities, where students gain workplace skills,” says Cheryl Cameron, VIU CYC Practicum Coordinator. “The students grappled with the loss of those unique personal involvements, but they came together and found ways to mobilize and make things happen despite the pandemic.”

Working alongside community agencies across Vancouver Island and even one in North Carolina, six teams consisting of five students each turned their ideas into a variety of activities and initiatives tailored to the specific needs of the organizations and the people they support.

A youth being supported by Nanaimo and Area Resource Services for Families (NARSF) expressed a love for making music. Fourth-year student Alexis Comeau connected them with an individual in Nanaimo who taught them how to create music in a studio setting.  

“We were able to present them with an opportunity they may not otherwise have had, and it helped them with making goals and feeling successful,” she says.

Fourth-year student Nathan Lowe has worked in child and aboriginal services agencies for the past 10 years, including this past year at Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services in Nanaimo, while studying at VIU. He says working through the pandemic restrictions has broadened his connections with other agencies and his knowledge of the services they provide. It also presented him with an opportunity to bridge Indigenous perspectives with their work experience partner NARSF. 

“I will facilitate a workshop on emotional regulation for the youth at NARSF and that will ladder into a person taking the youth on a medicine walk to harvest the ingredients to make a tea that is good for individuals in recovery. They will also talk about spiritual wellness,” says Lowe.

NARSF Program Manager Cara May says despite the unique challenges for innovative engagement this past year, collaborations with the CYC practicum team have provided meaningful program development for their youth programs, including the Transitions Substance Use Skills Based Day Program.

“Thanks to the knowledge and resources shared by students, we were able to incorporate their ideas for weekly outdoor programming, music workshops, Indigenous teachings, art activities and much more,” she says. “At NARSF Programs we provide space for the implementation of theory to practice and we are grateful for the opportunity to work alongside students as they find real-world applications of best practices.” 

 Lowe and Comeau both say the transition to an online learning format and practicum has been difficult and often left them feeling exhausted and somewhat defeated. 

“Despite my initial resistance and frustration, being able to engage weekly with each other over Zoom has been rewarding in a very different way than I was expecting,” says Comeau. “It created a broader support network among our groups and with our mentors and it forced us to be creative in our efforts to make a difference in the lives of the youth these programs support.” 

“What’s important to me is to deliver something that speaks to integrity and follow through,” says Lowe. “I think that’s what the youth need at this point in their lives, some regularity in these times right now, something that they know that they can rely on. And I think NARSF does a good job of making sure that the youth are getting what they need, and it feels good to be a part of that.”

To learn more about this unique course, come to the next Child and Youth Care Information Session, which takes place on Wednesday, March 17.


VIU alumnus makes impact through endowment awards

Friends, family and community members are remembering Micah Messent through three awards that honour two of his passions – education and the environment. – VIU photo

0308 - Three Indigenous students will have their financial burdens eased a little each year in the name of Micah Messent, a Vancouver Island University (VIU) graduate who lost his life in a tragic crash two years ago.

Messent, who graduated from Georges P. Vanier School in Courtenay in 2013 and VIU in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Indigenous/Xwulmuxw Studies, was on his way to the United Nations Environmental Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 10, 2019, when the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 plane he was on crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all passengers aboard. He was 23 years old.

Following his death, friends and family established an endowment fund through the VIU Foundation to support future students and ensure his name and memory live on. Donations continue to come into the fund, which has grown from supporting one annual award per year to three. The endowment will also support an annual event for Indigenous learners at VIU that will encourage them to follow their dreams.  

“The ability of this fund to support future students on their paths to success gives our family a level of comfort to know that Micah will continue to inspire others and make a difference for generations to come,” says Suzanne Camp, Messent’s mother. “In life, Micah had looked to the future and talked about the time when he would be able to support other students in reaching their educational goals. The yearly awards will honour his memory and intentions even as we continue to grieve his death.”

After graduating from VIU, Messent, who has Métis heritage on his mother’s side, worked for BC Parks’ Aboriginal Youth Internship Program, travelling to various parks across the province to lead cultural awareness workshops for BC Parks employees. He planned to return to school to pursue a degree in Indigenous law. Camp says it was important to him that people knew the history and treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada – history he learned more fully while at VIU. 

“As well, the friends he made, the Indigenous connections and the feeling of community at VIU supported his experience and added to the success he achieved upon graduation,” remembers Camp.

The three awards honour two of Messent’s passions – education and the environment. The Micah Messent Memorial Geography Award, the Micah Messent Memorial Indigenous Award and Micah Messent Memorial Environment Award will be available annually to Indigenous students attending VIU, with various criteria attached to each one.

Island universities partner on tourism marketing

CONNECT will bring together tourism industry professionals, students and employers to network and discuss the future of the industry.

CONNECT, which aims to build connections between employers, industry professionals, students and faculty, takes place March 3 from 3-5 pm. 

 February 10, 2021

Vancouver Island University (VIU) and North Island College (NIC) are partnering with Tourism Vancouver Island (TVI) for an engaging, informative and interactive virtual networking event.

CONNECT will take place Wednesday, March 3 from 3-5 pm. The goal of the event is to build connections between employers, industry professionals, students and faculty, while bringing together key stakeholders in the industry to share up-to-date information on research, support programs and the future of tourism on Vancouver Island.

“Tourism as a vital part of the Vancouver Island economy is being severely shaken through the pandemic,” said Dave Pinel, NIC coordinator, adventure guiding and Indigenous ecotourism. “I’ve been impressed by the long-term vision and values-based leadership of Tourism Vancouver Island for supporting immediate sector needs while positioning where and how we land on our feet and recover with shared intention. I welcome this event as a chance to connect tourism students with respected industry partners while together learning and contributing to some of the TVI initiatives for destination recovery, development, and management in ways that work well for visitors and residents.”  

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on Vancouver Island’s tourism industry. As tourism operators, organizations, First Nations and governments work to ensure the industry’s recovery, it is becoming clear that the pandemic will leave lasting changes.

The past year has brought immense challenges to Vancouver Island’s tourism industry,” said Calum Matthews, Director of Destination Development at Tourism Vancouver Island. “Together we will get through this and rebuild towards a more sustainable and balanced tourism economy that ensures ample space for businesses, communities and ecosystems to thrive.”

The CONNECT event will be split into two different parts. Part 1 will bring together industry stakeholders with a presentation from Matthews that will highlight ongoing efforts to ensure the industry’s recovery while discussing the future of tourism on Vancouver Island, followed by an open Q&A from industry partners and professionals. Part 2 is a networking component to facilitate introductions, conversations and create connections between students and industry partners. 

“Collaboration and connection are critical in supporting both employers and students in this time of economic recovery, as VIU and NIC have discovered through our partnership to create the Vancouver Island Work-Integrated Learning (VIWIL) hub,” said Brittany Parker, Interim Director for VIU’s Centre for Experiential Learning. “While there is still so much uncertainty for the tourism and hospitality industries this summer, we feel that connecting talented students with industry will lead to employer needs being met, and additional opportunities for sudents.”

The VIWIL hub is a free service for all tourism and hospitality operators and employers to use to connect with student talent from both NIC and VIU. 

Registration for the event is open now. Visit VIU’s CONNECT webpage or NIC CONNECT for more information.


VIU alumnus starts award for single mothers

Receiving financial help changed Kyla Hanington’s life and the lives of her children when she was at university; now she wants to give back to families in similar situations.

 Tuesday, February 9, 2021

There were many times when Kyla Hanington was close to giving up on her university education.

Every time this happened, the single mother of two received a timely scholarship, bursary or award that served as encouragement, as “a promise that it was okay to keep going, that I was doing the right thing.” 

These “gifts of hope” encouraged the Vancouver Island University (VIU) alum, who now lives in Maryland, to start her own award for single mothers at her alma mater.

“Scholarships change lives. My life changed and the lives and the trajectories of both my children changed because of my VIU degree,” she says. “This is my opportunity to provide some hope and encouragement to another family.” 

Hanington’s post-secondary journey began with a desire to make a better life for her family. In 2005, she moved to the Island from Maryland with her two young kids, $300 cash and all of her possessions in a green suitcase after her relationship ended with her children’s father. 

Suffering loss and a high degree of anxiety over the uncertainty of her situation, Hanington dealt with the stress by drinking too much. Over time, she stopped drinking and found a steady, albeit low-paying job, but was laid off when the company closed during the 2008 recession. Then she turned her mind to education.

“My fear of failure and sense of being less capable than others almost stopped me from applying, but I realized I owed my children more than a hand-to-mouth existence,” she says.  

Hanington started her Bachelor of Arts degree at age 35, when her children were five and nine.

“We were quite poor at the time – eventually foreclosed on, in fact – and it was a struggle in many ways,” she recalls. “I was so close to quitting time and time again because of the immense financial pressure. I wondered at times if it was selfish to continue – not everyone does, often people go get low-paying jobs that don’t require university education because we need to support our families – and so was I doing the wrong thing by working so hard in pursuit of a degree?”

Thankfully, every time she had these thoughts, Hanington would receive a call from VIU’s Financial Aid & Awards department letting her know that she earned a scholarship or award that would keep her going. 

“They were reassurances that I was doing the right thing, like stepping-stones to work my way across,” she recalls. “Maybe I should quit, but not this semester.”


Hanington graduated in 2012 and immediately got a job with the provincial government’s Family Justice Services Division as an interviewer with the Justice Access Centre. She then took a position in Terrace as a family justice counsellor, and became a certified family mediator through that position, doing additional training at the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

After reconnecting with and then marrying an old friend from Maryland, Hanington moved back to the United States in 2015 to join her husband, where she now works as the outreach coordinator and public information officer at Prince George County’s Human Relations Commission. In this position she creates and delivers anti-hate, anti-bias programming and creates community conversations that build increased understanding among diverse peoples. 

She also hasn’t stopped furthering her education. Hanington finished a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Mississippi University for Women in 2020 and is working on her Master of Arts in Human Rights through the University of London (UK).

She decided now was a good time to give back to VIU – the school that did so much for her when she was at her lowest point – by starting the Kyla Hanington Award for Single Mothers. The annual award gives out one $1,000 tuition credit to a female student who is single parenting – like Hanington was doing when she attended VIU. She wants others to have the same transformational experience she had – and the ripple effects of that education. 

“I think the most significant impact is looking at where my kids are at now,” says Hanington. “They saw their mom really struggle, they came to class with me and when I feared I couldn’t keep going, they sang me encouraging songs. Now my oldest is about to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Film from Hollins University in Virginia, and my youngest is about to graduate from high school and has been accepted into all six of the universities she applied to. My story isn’t so much about me, it’s about how me going back to school as a mature student set a course for my children, too. We all want to launch our children from the best-possible platform, and here is where VIU brought my family.” 

If you wish to support Hanington’s award for single mothers, visit, select “other” in the drop-down section and enter “Kyla Hanington Award” in the text box. Anyone interested in learning more about supporting students through scholarships, awards, or bursaries can visit the VIU Donors homepage or call VIU’s Annual Giving Manager, Dave Forrester, at 250.618.1319.

VIU baking program rises to the next level

VIU Baking and Pastry Arts students making fruit tarts.
/Vancouver Island University photo

Bakers who want to start their own specialty business or take on commercial management roles can learn the skills they need at new program being offered at VIU.

February 9, 2021

Students who love baking and are ready to take the next step toward becoming a professional baker or even selling their own delicious creations can take a new diploma program starting in August 2021 at Vancouver Island University (VIU).

“Many of our graduates from the baking certificate program go on to start their own businesses,” says Rita Gower, Chair, Professional Baking and Pastry Arts. “That can be risky. It’s not enough to be really good at baking, you need a whole different skill set to thrive at being an entrepreneur.” 

The new two-year Baking and Pastry Arts Management (BPAM) Diploma program provides students with advanced bakery instruction and the business planning and financial management training needed to allow graduates to move successfully into administrative positions or start their own commercial ventures. 

“Having these additional skills opens up another level of opportunities for graduates,” says Gower. “We are seeing growth in the artisanal sector, with specialty bakeries that create custom cakes, breads and bagels, cheese making, ice-cream, condiments and more. People are looking for high-quality products made with the best ingredients that aren’t full of substances people can’t pronounce and are reflective of current trends such as gluten-free, organic or vegan.”

In the first year of the program, students learn the fundamentals of baking, safe operation of commercial kitchen appliances, efficient food production practices, pastry making, advanced breadmaking techniques, how to create stunning wedding cakes, baking in a wood-fired brick oven, and the knowledge and techniques for working with chocolate. 

In year two, students will take advanced pastry courses, providing them with level two technical training towards a baker Red Seal certification. They will also plan and open a pop-up bakery and take a number of business courses that give them skills crucial to managing a kitchen or business, including human resource administration, accounting and marketing through VIU’s Department of Hospitality Management. Students in both the first and second year of the program also participate in a paid 10-week cooperative work placement, often leading to successful career placement.

Every year, highly skilled bakers are brought in as guest teachers to share their knowledge and techniques with VIU instructors and students.

Students and alumni of the baking program have an opportunity every two years to participate in a 16-day European field school excursion to Paris and Brussels touring professional baking facilities, partaking in numerous hands-on workshops and attending a five-day baking show, giving them exposure to international trends in their field. 

The baking program has been popular with students from across Canada and for the first time will be open to international students. VIU’s Culinary Arts program has been accepting international students for several years.

Completion of the diploma also provides students with advanced credit when applying to the VIU Bachelor of Hospitality Management degree. 

“We are excited to offer this comprehensive program,” says Gower. “We are responding to industry demand for competent graduates who are ready to start working in commercial kitchens, and we listened to what our students are saying they need to embrace rising into a management position or operating their own business and becoming the trainers and baking mentors of the future.” 


Photo Caption: VIU Baking and Pastry Arts students making fruit tarts. Photo Credit: Vancouver Island University


VIU sutdent joins national advisory committee

Felicia Fischer

0129 – A Vancouver Island University (VIU) student will have the chance to weigh in on collaborative sustainable development initiatives taking place at institutions across Canada and make sure students are involved in them.

Felicia Fischer, a second-year Master of Community Planning student, has been selected to join the ImpAct Student and Alumni Advisory Committee (ISAAC). ImpAct was launched in Spring 2019 by Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) to advance social, economic and environmental well-being. The initiative, which uses the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework, focuses on three collaborative projects that aim to reduce barriers to inclusive access, promote social entrepreneurship, and improve campus sustainability. ISAAC, which meets once a month, provides strategic input and guidance into initiatives arising from these three working groups. 

“We provide student perspectives and a diversity of experiences to the work,” explains Fischer.

“The SDGs offer valuable guidelines to help tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity in a healthy environment,” says CICan president and CEO, Denise Amyot. “As community hubs, where education, innovation, and entrepreneurship converge, colleges and institutes are ideally placed to help Canada reach these goals. ImpAct will give us an opportunity to share best practices, but also develop projects that will have tangible results all across the country.” 

Pam Shaw, Director of VIU’s MCP program, is excited that the University will have representation on this national-level committee within CICan. 

“This is an important committee and students from VIU now have a voice and opportunity to contribute as change continues to evolve at a rapid pace for post-secondary institutions across Canada,” she says. “This is a well-deserved appointment and I know Felicia will be a wonderful contributor to this work.”

Fischer’s acceptance letter from CICan noted that while there were a record number of nominees, her application “stood out” and the selection committee believes she will bring a strong voice and solid experience to the collaborative work. 

“Pam suggested I apply because I’ve been both an undergraduate and a graduate student at VIU, and an international student who is transitioning to becoming a domestic student. She thinks having all of those different perspectives and experiences will help me make positive contributions,” says Fischer.

Fischer, who is half-German and half-Trinidadian, believes her background and experiences contributed to her successful application. Her father is a pilot and growing up she has lived all over the world, including Trinidad, Antigua, France, England, Scotland, Italy, Turkey and China. In 2015, Fischer moved to Canada from the UK, where she completed an International Baccalaureate Diploma, to start her undergraduate degree in Digital Media Studies at VIU. 

“I didn’t want to be student number 240 at the back left – I was looking for a smaller university,” she explains. “I also wanted to be close to Vancouver, which has a strong film industry – the industry I initially wanted to work in.” 

Fischer immediately got involved around campus, becoming a Peer Helper and then getting an internship position with the Faculty of International Education, through which she met some planning students who had just arrived from Belize on Queen Elizabeth Scholarships. When they talked about what they were doing in the planning program, Fischer was captivated. 

“In my media studies program, I was interested in digital communities and trying to understand how people are finding connections and building identity in virtual spaces like Minecraft and World of Warcraft,” she says. “My friend Eric explained to me the vital role planning has in building spaces that nurture people and social connections – or not 

Fischer’s ultimate goal is to work in a role where she can bridge the gap between members of the public who want to be involved and those making urban design decisions.  

“We are shaped by the buildings that surround us as much as they are shaped by us,” says Fischer. “Good planning and urban design can create an environment that brings out the best in us.”

Financial support for resilience research at VIU

VIU Nursing Professor Dr. Shannon Dames has received a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research award that will allow her to focus on development of a psychedelic-assisted mental health therapy program. ­­ VIU photo

SUMMARY: Support from BC’s health research funding agency will enable Dr. Shannon Dames to focus on further developing a resilience-focused, psychedelic-assisted mental health therapy program.

0126 – An innovative psychedelic medicine-assisted therapy and resilience training program developed by Vancouver Island University (VIU) Nursing Professor Dr. Shannon Dames and her team is proving to be very effective.

Dames and team have developed a program that delivers cutting-edge treatment to health-care providers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and treatment-resistant mental health complications such as depression, anxiety, trauma and emotional exhaustion. The first 12-week quality improvement trial, conducted in collaboration with Island Health, has yielded remarkable results.

“It is healing people who didn’t think they could be healed,” says Dames. “Our evaluation results show significant improvements. Of the 16 participants in the first quality improvement cohort, 11 screened positive for PTSD. All of the PTSD patients screened negative upon program completion, which is unheard of.” 

Additionally, out of 13 participants who also screened positive for generalized anxiety, 62% left screening negative, and 48% had significant clinical improvements. Of the 13 who screened positive for depression, 100% saw significant improvements in their scores. At the one-month follow up, seven patients were in remission and six patients showed a reduction in symptoms from moderate or severe to mild. 

To continue this promising research, Dames has been awarded $450,000 over five years from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) and the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation.

The funding will allow her to focus 75% of her time over the next five years to continuing with her research and improving the program. 

The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research is BC’s health research funding agency. The long-term Professional-Investigator awards support health professionals who are actively involved in patient care to conduct and apply research relevant to health and/or the health system.

“I am delighted at the support this initiative is receiving,” says Dames. “This award is a gift that will allow me the time to really focus on expanding access to these innovative and evidence-based therapies, which are sorely needed during this global health crisis.” 

The project is supported by a multidisciplinary team of health and research professionals and agencies, including the BC SUPPORT Unit Vancouver Island Centre, an initiative that supports patient-oriented research in the region; Island Health clinicians; VIU researchers; the University of Victoria (UVic); and the University of British Columbia (UBC). Dames is also collaborating with Island Health’s Research and Capacity Building department and the Ministry of Health’s Innovation Hub to develop the first publicly offered program in Canada that combines resilience-based communities of practice with ketamine-assisted therapy. Ketamine is currently the only legal medicine that produces psychedelic effects.

“The fact that Shannon received this prestigious award recognizes the exceptionally innovative research that her team is doing and the potential impact for health outcomes in BC,” says Dr. Nicole Vaugeois, Associate Vice-President of Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity at VIU. 

The research team is currently onboarding the second cohort of participants in the Roots To Thrive – Ketamine Assisted Therapy (RTT-KAT) treatment program. Long-term goals include creating an accredited psychedelic-assisted therapy training certificate program, which will be added to the VIU curriculum.


Photo Caption: VIU Nursing Professor Dr. Shannon Dames has received a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research award that will allow her to focus on development of a psychedelic-assisted mental health therapy program. ­­ Photo Credit: Vancouver Island University



VI University culinary arts student cooking for gold

Vancouver Island University

0107 – The day his parents opened Abbondanza, a restaurant in Ucluelet, BC, Ottis Crabbe knew he wanted to become a chef.

His path toward running his own commercial kitchen began last year when he signed up for Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Culinary Arts program, earning two awards in his first year. He will graduate with his Culinary Management diploma this spring.

Jason Lloyd, Chair of the VIU Culinary Arts program, says Crabbe’s passion for cooking and zeal for learning is what earned him a recommendation from instructors for a place on Junior Culinary Team Canada (JCTC).

“Ottis checked a lot of boxes as a strong contender for the team,” says Chef Jason Lloyd. “He showed up here on day one ready to go. He was always ‘Yes Chef, what can I do Chef?’ and volunteered for everything.”  

Crabbe joins eight other culinary students from across the country to represent Canada in the regional category at the oldest culinary competition in the world, the IKA/Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2024. Over the next four years, the team will train at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Vancouver under the guidance of Chef John Carlo Felicella, Manager of the Canadian youth team.

“I am very excited about Canada’s new Junior Culinary Team,” says Felicella. “One of the best things about working with and developing young cooks is the true gratification when you witness professional growth. Ottis very much fits the mold of what Junior Culinary Team Canada is all about – specifically his camaraderie, discipline, willingness to share and gain knowledge, and ability to have fun while achieving our end goal. Over the next four years I look forward to our journey together as a team to represent Canada at the Culinary Olympics.”

About 1,800 participants from 67 nations battled for an IKA/Culinary Olympic title in a variety of categories last February. The Youth Team Canada earned double gold and placed 4th in the world competing against 23 other junior national teams.

Crabbe has been honing his cooking skills at this family’s restaurant in Ucluelet and this past year he has been working at The Lakehouse at Shawnigan as a commis, which is an entry-level position where he worked under head chef Ryan Bissel and sous chef Julian Smith.

“It's extremely humbling to be chosen to represent Canada,” says Crabbe. “It is definitely a gateway for me to develop as a chef and it will open a lot of doors for me and opportunities to become better and reach my potential.”

After he graduates in April, Crabbe is planning to get his Red Seal Certificate for cooking and is contemplating pursuing one for professional baking as well. However, his main focus for the next few years will be training for the culinary Olympics.  

“No one is born being really, really good at culinary, it takes a lot of time and effort,” says Crabbe. “I’m willing to put in more work for the final payoff, and I am really excited to represent Canada.” 

Lloyd says Crabbe is the first VIU Culinary Arts student to be chosen for a place on Junior Culinary Team Canada since he began in 2011 and it will be a great experience for him.  

“It speaks to the level of instruction and training that students receive in the program,” adds Lloyd. “It means that when students leave here, they have the skills needed to enter the demanding and exciting world of culinary arts and can find meaningful work further developing their talents and will go on to become world-class chefs.”

Lloyd has worked in some of Canada’s top kitchens and has entered and won many competitions, including top apprentice in Canada in 1996. 

“The people I learned from are now the judges and the mentors for our students in these world-class competitions, and who knows, perhaps one day I’ll get to that point and then the students can work their way up to that level too.”

You can experience university life online in January

0104 – While the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that much of the teaching and learning activities at Vancouver Island University (VIU) are happening online this year, that isn’t stopping the University from hosting its open house events for prospective students.

This January, VIU is rolling Discovery Days, the University’s biggest on-campus event for high school students, and Experience VIU, an event for anyone in the community interested in checking out campus life, into three interactive, virtual days of exploration and discovery. These informative and fun drop-in events will include chances to chat one-on-one with recruiters and educational advisors who can answer your questions about programs, student resources and how to pay for school; videos (including our Chemistry department’s explosive experiments video); downloadable resources; and fun games to help you get to know VIU. Participants can enter to win a range of prizes and VIU swag, including three $1,000 tuition credit prizes for domestic students.

Hosting the event online allows people to participate from wherever they are in the world, while the live chats allow prospective students to get their specific questions answered. The three events take place at different times of the day so people can attend from school, on a break at work, on the weekend or in the evening. Drop in anytime on the following days, between these times:

  • Saturday, January 16 from 9 am to 2 pm
  • Wednesday, January 20 from 1 pm to 6:30 pm
  • Thursday, January 21 from 1 pm to 6:30 pm

These informal events are for anyone interested in learning more about post-secondary and how VIU can help you achieve your career goals, from high school students and their parents, to those who have been out of school for a while and are ready to explore their options.

International students will be able to learn more about what it’s like to live on Vancouver Island, accommodation options, immigration, admission requirements and more. Our Services for Aboriginal Students staff will be there as well for those who want to learn more about the Indigenous community at VIU and supports for Indigenous students.

Check out this video featuring VIU Recruiter Dylan Ewen to learn more, or visit the Experience VIU registration page to sign up.